Can Yoga Aid in the Treatment of Eating Disorders? A Randomized Controlled Trial

  • Author / Creator
    Brennan, Margaret A
  • Binge eating disorder (BED) and bulimia nervosa (BN) are psychological disorders with devastating effects. Many individuals with these disorders either do not seek treatment or fail to improve with standard treatments. Over the past decade, Yoga has increasingly been incorporated into the treatment of eating disorders. While preliminary research provides some support for this practice, further research is needed. This randomized controlled trial investigated the effects of participating in an eight-week Kripalu Yoga program or a waitlist control condition on women with BN and BED. Participants in both groups completed measures of binge eating frequency, self-compassion, self-criticism, and difficulties with emotion regulation at weeks zero, eight, and twelve. Participants in the Yoga group also completed measures of state mindfulness following the first, third, sixth, and eighth Yoga classes, and kept a log of their home Yoga practice. A series of mixed model ANOVAs revealed that Yoga participants experienced larger decreases in binge eating frequency, self-criticism and emotion regulation difficulties, and larger increases in self-compassion across time than controls. Yoga participants also experienced increases in mindfulness states across the eight weeks of the program. While amount of home practice predicted improvements in emotion regulation, self-compassion, and self-criticism, it did not predict changes in binge eating frequency or mindfulness skills. These results provide further support for the continued use of Yoga in eating disorder treatment. The findings also shed light on the mechanisms of change—participation in the eight-week Yoga program enhanced self-compassion and mindfulness skills, which have demonstrated benefits for individuals with eating disorders, and positively influenced self-criticism and emotion regulation difficulties, both of which perpetuate these disorders. As predicted, Kripalu Yoga was a good fit for individuals with BN or BED, likely due to its emphasis on self-compassion and mindfulness.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Educational Psychology
  • Specialization
    • Counselling Psychology
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Whelton, William (Educational Psychology)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Gross, Doug (Physical Therapy)
    • Hanson, William (Educational Psychology)
    • Knish, Steve (UHC Student Counselling)
    • LaFrance Robinson, Adele (Psychology)
    • Pei, Jacqueline (Educational Psychology)